Bilingual vs. ESL and Bilingual vs. Dual Language

Teaching English to non-native speakers can be a complicated task, because different students have different levels of English language proficiency. Educators have come up with different English language programs to make it possible for all foreign language speaking students to achieve the same level of language proficiency as their English-speaking peers. There are three different types of programs for non-native speakers, and these include the bilingual program, ESL program, and the dual language program.

ESL Program

ESL stands for “English as a second language”; it is a program that helps students whose native language is a foreign language to attain better proficiency in the English language. In a typical ESL classroom, students may have different language backgrounds, and the lessons are conducted entirely in English. ESL teachers are not required to understand their students’ native language. There are a number of ways in which ESL instructions are provided in public schools, including ‘pull-out’ ESL, ESL class period, and sheltered English.

‘Pull-out’ ESL programs require students to leave their classrooms for a certain period of time once a day or week to attend an ESL class. Teachers may follow their own curriculums or teach subjects that students learn in their regular classes. This type of program is usually used in schools that have limited teachers and classrooms.

In the class period ESL program, students can take their ESL classes as an elective or a language arts course. This way, they will not miss anything that is taught in their regular classrooms, and they will be given course credit for attending ESL classes at the end of the semester.

Students who attend sheltered English classes will be taught regular subjects in simplified English, and they will learn through visual aids, hands-on activities, games, and other special learning tools. This is considered the best ESL method, because it allows students to keep up with the curriculum of their grade levels and improve their English language skills at the same time.

  • What is ESL?: A discussion on the benefits of attending an ESL program.
  • ESL vs Bilingual: Find out the pros and cons of bilingual and ESL programs in this document.

Bilingual Program

The main difference between bilingual program and ESL program is that all the students in a bilingual class speak the same native language. The teachers in a bilingual program are required to speak in English, as well as foreign language. The students will be initially taught in both languages, but as time progresses, their teachers will slowly phase out the foreign language and teach only in English. At the end of a successful bilingual program, they will be able to join their native English-speaking peers in regular classes.

  • Bilingual and ESL: An article that discusses the differences between a bilingual program and an ESL program.

Dual Language Program

Dual language program is sometimes referred to as two-way bilingual program. In a dual language classroom, half the student population is made up of native English speakers, and the other half is comprised of students who speak the same foreign language. Teachers have to conduct half of the entire course in English and the other half in a foreign language. This program benefits both the English-speaking students and the foreign language-speaking students, because they all get to learn a new language.

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